BURLINGTON, N.C. -- There's a lot going on in downtown Burlington.
More loft apartments are on the way and there are plans to expand the Paramount Theatre. Downtown boosters are keeping the energy going by embracing public art.
Artist Mauricio Ramirez is in Burlington this week to paint a large, colorful mural on the back wall of the consignment store Bella's House. Lisa McDaniel is the co-owner of the shop. She said the half-finished mural is already making a difference.
"It's more fun to pull up to work when you have something beautiful like that. We are going to get a lot of exposure," McDaniel said.
Burlington Downtown Corporation plans to bring a total of three murals to downtown. Sara Beth Hardy is the director of operations and communications for Burlington Downtown Corporation. She explained why it is important to place murals throughout downtown.
"What makes the heartbeat is the spirit of community and creativity and innovation and a mural like this helps to foster those things," Hardy said.
Burlington Downtown Corporation decided to put its first mural near the intersection of East Webb Avenue and South Spring Street because it gets plenty of traffic and its across from the train station. Since the multi-colored mural is in a busy spot, Ramirez gets lots of visitors. And that's OK.
"I don't mind people coming up and introducing themselves and saying 'Hi,'" Ramirez said. "I welcome that. It makes the process of painting the mural exciting and I am more engaged with the community when that happens."
Ramirez might use up to 300 cans of spray paint to create the mural. He carefully sprays geometric shapes like triangles and trapezoids on the wall. The vibrant colors are arranged in such a way that you can see hearts and butterflies. Ramirez added that each item has a meaning.
"The image behind me is a butterfly. It represents rebirth, something new. I think downtown Burlington has that and I wanted to put the two together," Ramirez said.
"Although in a perfect world, we would like to treat everyone equally, I put the two hearts on either side of the building to remind us it's important to think about the other person," Ramirez said.
The front of Bella's House is on East Front Street. The mural is on the backside of the building. A $10,000 grant from the Community Innovation Fund is helping to bring three murals to downtown Burlington. Work has not begun on the other two murals. But Hardy said they should be done by the end of the year.